Feed Our Valley: State program brings produce to food banks - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Feed Our Valley: State program brings produce to food banks

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

We talk a lot about "nonperishable" food items when it comes to Feed Our Valley donations, but there's a demand for fresh produce as well. 

One of the ways food banks like Second Harvest receive produce is through a statewide program, linking food banks with farmers.

It delivers a LOT of produce.

Walk inside a cooler at Second Harvest Food Bank, and you'll see bags of onions piled to the ceiling. Fresh peppers, sweet potatoes, and much more. It's all here through the Ohio Agricultural Clearance Program, taking extra or slightly blemished fruits and vegetables from farms and making sure they don't go to waste.

"It's a matter of cooperation and collaboration," said Mike Iberis, the Executive Director of the Second Harvest Food Bank.

"We get into spots sometimes where we have so much corn we can't get rid of it," said Megan McMaster from McMaster Farms, who sends corn to the food bank.

Instead of letting it rot in the fields, that surplus ends up with people who could really use it. Last year, Second Harvest handed out three million pounds of produce. The type varies depending on the season and availability. Sometimes it's corn, sometimes it's apples.

"We're at the whims of mother nature," said John Huffman from Huffman Fruit Farm. "Some years, various crops will do exceptionally well and some other crop will do very poorly in the same year."

Think of it this way, 20 years ago, those three million pounds of food would have gone to waste. Now, instead it gets into the hands of people who really need it and in a lot of cases, it's fine. Just a tiny mark here or there on a pepper that makes it unable to be sold in a grocery store.

"It's a product that a grocery store will not accept for the simple reason that it's not pretty," said Iberis. "People, when they're paying for it, they aren't necessarily going to buy the discolored or the blemished product, but there's nothing wrong with it."

And certainly nothing wrong with fresh, healthy options on the dinner table.

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